by Aaron Lightfoot, Comic Columnist
When people ask me what comic they should read, I get an overload of ideas that rush through my head. My first question that I ask is a simple one: do you want to read about superheroes? If they answer no, I direct the person to Image Comics. There are many popular series that have been produced by Image like “The Walking Dead,” “Spawn,” and “Hack/Slash.” But Image, like many other publishers such as Dark Horse, Valiant, and Dynamite, becomes overshadowed by the massive number of comics that DC and Marvel produce. Recently, I got the chance to hear about the company from two of its contributors, Phil Hester and Kyle Strahm, at the Kansas City Comic Con. After the meeting, I finally understand what makes Image a company that many need to follow.
Phil Hester, artist for the series “Beyond Belief” and writer for the series “Mythic” and “Firebreather,” stated that the differences between mainstream publishers and Image are “a night and day thing.” He went on to say that Image has less say in what a creator does and that the company gives creators “total absolute freedom” for their series. One of the benefits of Image that Hester mentioned is the fact that Image is a non-profit organization, meaning that once your book breaks even, all of the profit belongs to the people who worked on it. Kyle Strahm, artist for “Spread” and “We Will Bury You,” said the threshold one needs to break to make a profit is much lower than many mainstream publishers. It gives creators options that aren’t normally given to others, such as having multiple variant covers. On top of that, the creators of the series own all of their rights, meaning that if someone wanted to do a movie deal, like the one that was done on Hester’s “Firebreather,” Image has no leverage or ownership, unlike DC and Marvel that own a majority of the rights.
All of this being said, Image can afford to operate this way because they are a relatively small company. Being a small company has its advantages and disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage is that the process for a comic to get published is entirely on the creators. Also, Image expects the creative team to be put together before you work on a comic. For example, you can work on the project with a buddy but if you are new then you need to have some way in to be able to get a buddy. The process for submitting a comic to Image can be found on their website. The most important part of the submission process is the pitch. Strahm said the pitch “is not just a reflection of your skill as an artist or your skill as a writer, it’s also a reflection of your skill to put things together in a professional way.” If they approve your idea, then you will get some due dates for your book, but it’s heavily reliant on the creators.
Image was founded so people can work on what they want. Many acclaimed writers and artists such as Matt Fraction, Scott Snyder and Jason Aaron do work for Image while also doing work for Marvel or DC. Image can be a good starting point for someone’s career, but many come back to work for Image due to the fact that there isn’t restricted to any guidelines about how to shape their characters. Hester said people, after reading comics for a while, need to not focus so much on what character they read but instead focus on what creators they read. If you like the work someone does, then you will probably like their previous work, which may open your eyes to something new. After meeting with Phil, I made sure to buy the first three issues of “Mythic” and his run on “Swamp Thing.” I also met with Kyle Strahm and picked up a copy of “Spread.” Both “Mythic” and “Spread” are still ongoing, and if you have not picked them up, you absolutely need to.